Planning Authority set to refuse Wied Għomor hotel

For the second time in as many days, decision-makers at the Planning Authority overturned recommendations by planning bureaucrats for approval of controversial developments

No hotel at Wied Għomor: A planning commission has indicated its intention to overturn a recommendation for approval
No hotel at Wied Għomor: A planning commission has indicated its intention to overturn a recommendation for approval

The Planning Authority has signalled its intention not to approve a fully-fledged guest house instead of two dwellings in Wied Għomor despite a recommendation for approval.

A planning commission on Friday took a different route to that recommended by the development management directorate, which argued the development would result in a “wider environmental benefit”.

The current dwellings outside the building zone, where previously approved by the authority as a replacement of two derelict structures in line with the rural policy.

The PA commission’s disagreement with the directorate is the second such circumstance in as many days.

The planning commission, on Thursday, sent a proposed 72-apartment block proposed in Naxxar back to the drawing board despite a recommendation by the case officer to approve.

This could be an indication of a growing rift between a new crop of decision-makers appointed by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia and planning bureaucrats. 

Commission board chairman Martin Camilleri disagreed with the directorate’s view, insisting he saw no environmental benefits from the Wied Għomor hotel development.

Camilleri said the project would generate more traffic in a protected valley and added that the proposal was deemed to be in breach of the rural policy.

He pointed out that the original permit to transform the ruins in two dwellings was issued on the basis of the rural policy, which does not foresee the redevelopment of countryside ruins into hotels.

St Julians Mayor Albert Buttigieg warned that the application will only serve to continue commercialising the valley and would set a precedent for the creation of a hotel instead of derelict rooms.

“This is an exercise in making miracles through the abuse of policies… this is a case of circling a square… circumventing policies and using them at the convenience of the applicant,” he warned.

The Environment and Resources Authority, which objected to the application, said it appeared that the previous applications were merely “stepping stones leading to this proposal”. 

The St Julian’s and Swieqi local councils also objected to the plans, as did environmental groups Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, Din l-Art Ħelwa and Nature Trust.

Since the commission was overturning the case officer’s recommendation to approve, a final decision will be taken in a month’s time as specified by law.